How is Oedipus Rex still significant in the 21st century? I have to study for a test and this might be an essay question. I have been sitting in my room thinking, and I am coming up with nothing....

How is Oedipus Rex still significant in the 21st century?

I have to study for a test and this might be an essay question. I have been sitting in my room thinking, and I am coming up with nothing. So much help is needed.


Expert Answers
mstultz72 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The above answer is excellent, so I will offer another take:

Oedipus is the noblest of tragic heroes.  Even today, we can learn from his suffering and stubborn pursuit of truth.  Whereas lesser tragic heroes might have committed suicide (like Antigone, Othello, and his wife-mother Jocasta), Oedipus blinds himself for not knowing the truth.  In this act, he both punishes and purges himself, in effect taking responsibility for his crimes and lack of self-knowledge (as he promised from the beginning of the play).  Later, in Oedipus at Colonus, Oedipus becomes a kind of Tiresias, a blind prophet, and the townspeople welcome him as an emblem of dignity in suffering.

Also, Oedipus Rex teaches us that all of our families have skeletons in the closet.  How well do we know our mothers and fathers?  What secrets have they hidden from us?  More, are we destined to make those same mistakes with our children?  Will we inevitably end up like our parents no matter how hard we try to avoid it?  These are eternal questions which Oedipus Rex poses to its readers in every century.  Just ask Hamlet, Orestes, the Loman brothers (Death of s Salesman), and Luke Skywalker.

jameadows eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Oedipus Rex reminds us of the blindness and arrogance of the powerful. This message is still relevant today. Oedipus is a king who has at his disposal the ability to find out what is causing a plague to descend on Thebes. Tiresias, an all-knowing blind seer, has the knowledge to tell Oedipus the truth (that Oedipus unwittingly killed his father, Laius, the former king, causing the plague to descend on the city). However, Oedipus is so arrogant that Tiresias refuses to tell him the truth. Although Oedipus has power, he is blind to the truth, while the blind seer knows the truth. While Oedipus seems to represent the epitome of strength and power, it is, in fact, Tiresias who has hidden strengths. He says to Oedipus, "Yea, I am free, strong in the strength of truth."

Oedipus mistakenly believes his position of power will shield him from the fate that affects all human beings, and his hubris makes him err time and time again. His arrogance reminds us that leaders are often blind to their faults and that no one is immune from tragedy. This reality as is true now as it was in ancient Greek times. 

readerofbooks eNotes educator| Certified Educator

While the aspect of marrying your mother and accidentally killing your father might not be very relevant to our modern age, but the underlying message of Oedipus Rex certainly is.

The chief problem of Oedipus was what the Greeks called hubris, namely his pride. Oedipus thought that the he could solve anything and do anything. He was pretty sure of himself. This was part of his downfall. From this perspective, we can say that this mentality is very much with us today. Think of human pride in technology. Think of the disasters of 2011, such as the BP spill.

Oedipus also had another flaw. He lacked self-knowledge. All along he was the one who was causing the problems. However, he had no clue. Likewise, we can make a case that people today lack self-knowledge. Connected to the first point, perhaps we can say that pride blinds us.

student1997 | Student

people today still lack self knowledge and people still get into trouble by their arrogance